Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Ward Churchill's last stand?

Another step in the long process of removing a charlatan from the faculty at the University of Colorado at Boulder has been taken:

Recommendation of Interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano with Regard to Investigation of Research Misconduct

June 26, 2006

. . . After conducting the due diligence I felt was necessary, I have come to a decision regarding the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct pertaining to Professor Ward Churchill. Today, I issued to Professor Churchill a notice of intent to dismiss him from his faculty position at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Churchill may keep getting paid while the case drags on, but some day he may have to search for another university's soapbox to stand on while he foists his lies on the public.

May that day come soon.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Unprecedentedly popular word

"Unprecedented" keeps showing up in the news reports, but so far I haven't found for certain where the news reporters are getting their quotes.

I've only been able to read through the summary of the National Academy of Sciences report on global warming so far, but this is what it says:

The basic conclusion of Mann et al. (1998, 1999) was that the late 20th century warmth in the Northern Hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1,000 years. This conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence that includes both additional large-scale surface temperature reconstructions and pronounced changes in a variety of local proxy indicators, such as melting on icecaps and the retreat of glaciers around the world, which in many cases appear to be unprecedented during at least the last 2,000 years. Not all individual proxy records indicate that the recent warmth is unprecedented, although a larger fraction of geographically diverse sites experienced exceptional warmth during the late 20th century than during any other extended period from A.D. 900 onward.

The report is saying, in other words:
  1. that Mann and his "hockey stick" claimed there was an unprecedented period of warmth in the latter part of the 20th century compared to the previous 1000 years;
  2. that Mann's conclusion is supported by "an array of evidence" -- some of which (melting icecaps and glacier retreat) involves "proxy" indicators of events which "appear to be unprecedented during at least the last 2,000 years;" and
  3. that some of the evidence indicates that the more recent warmth is not unprecedented.

The news reporters appear to be taking that paragraph as the basis for their statements that the National Academy of Sciences has found that the surface temperatures in the last few decades of the 20th century were unprecedentedly warm -- and even stretching it a little farther by implying that the rate of increase in temperatures is itself unprecedented:

After a comprehensive review of climate-change data, the pre-eminent U.S. scientific body found average temperatures on Earth have risen about 1 degree over the past century, a development that "is unprecedented for the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia."

The NAS report doesn't appear to say what the news reporters say it says.

The next paragraph in the NAS report's summary is interesting -- both for what it says and for the omission of its words from news media reports:

Based on the analyses presented in the original papers by Mann et al. and this newer supporting evidence, the committee finds it plausible that the Northern Hemisphere was warmer during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period over the preceding millennium. The substantial uncertainties currently present in the quantitative assessment of large-scale surface temperature changes prior to about A.D. 1600 lower our confidence in this conclusion compared to the high level of confidence we place in the Little Ice Age cooling and 20th century warming. Even less confidence can be placed in the original conclusions by Mann et al. (1999) that “the 1990s are likely the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, in at least a millennium” because the uncertainties inherent in temperature reconstructions for individual years and decades are larger than those for longer time periods, and because not all of the available proxies record temperature information on such short timescales.

That is much the same as the press release, so why have the reporters overlooked or omitted it?

It says, in short: The NAS has very little confidence in the claim made by Mann that the last decade was the warmest in a thousand years, much less his claim that 1998 was the warmest year.

The reporters appear to want to end the debate by simply twisting what the NAS said into a complete endorsement of Mann's "hockey stick."

Look at the graph on page 2 of the NAS report's summary (page 3 of the pdf file). It shows the reconstructions of surface temperatures in the years since approximately 900 A.D., and it isn't in the shape of a hockey stick.

Consider the obvious fact that anyone could have a "high level of confidence" that temperatures are warmer now than at any time since 1600 -- because the years from approximately 1250 to 1850 were the cooling period known as the "Little Ice Age." Imagine that! The world is warmer now than it was during the Little Ice Age.

The Times hypes the "hockey stick"

Here's the next installment of news media treatment of the National Academy of Sciences report on global warming. The Seattle Times published an article written by Los Angeles Times reporters who apparently couldn't see anything at all uncertain in the report:

Prestigious scientific panel backs global-warming data

By Thomas H. Maugh II and Karen Kaplan
Los Angeles Times

After a comprehensive review of climate-change data, the pre-eminent U.S. scientific body found average temperatures on Earth have risen about 1 degree over the past century, a development that "is unprecedented for the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia."

It seems odd that reporters would not notice the stated levels of confidence in the NAS report. The report's authors had less confidence in any temperature reconstructions covering times before 1600 A.D. They had even less confidence in the "hockey stick" claim that the 1990s were the hottest years in the last 1000 or 2000 years. But the LA/Seattle Times article says none of this.

Typical for the LA Times, the reporters expressly tell their readers what to think about the NAS report:

The finding was a rebuke to skeptics and some conservative politicians, who have repeatedly attacked the hockey stick as the work of overzealous scientists determined to shame the government into imposing environmental rules on big business.

The facts aren't important, but the spin must be included.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Hockey Stick: Plausible or proven?

The National Academy of Sciences released a report on global climate change today that seems a little bit equivocal about the "hockey stick" graph of surface temperature changes, so how much of the report's actual findings will be emphasized by the news media?

Here is an excerpt from the NAS news release:

The report was requested by Congress after a controversy arose last year over surface temperature reconstructions published by climatologist Michael Mann and his colleagues in the late 1990s. The researchers concluded that the warming of the Northern Hemisphere in the last decades of the 20th century was unprecedented in the past thousand years. In particular, they concluded that the 1990s were the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year. Their graph depicting a rise in temperatures at the end of a long era became known as the "hockey stick."

The Research Council committee found the Mann team's conclusion that warming in the last few decades of the 20th century was unprecedented over the last thousand years to be plausible, but it had less confidence that the warming was unprecedented prior to 1600; fewer proxies -- in fewer locations -- provide temperatures for periods before then. Because of larger uncertainties in temperature reconstructions for decades and individual years, and because not all proxies record temperatures for such short timescales, even less confidence can be placed in the Mann team's conclusions about the 1990s, and 1998 in particular.

The committee noted that scientists' reconstructions of Northern Hemisphere surface temperatures for the past thousand years are generally consistent. The reconstructions show relatively warm conditions centered around the year 1000, and a relatively cold period, or "Little Ice Age," from roughly 1500 to 1850. The exact timing of warm episodes in the medieval period may have varied by region, and the magnitude and geographical extent of the warmth is uncertain, the committee said. None of the reconstructions indicates that temperatures were warmer during medieval times than during the past few decades, the committee added.

Note how the NAS characterized the "hockey stick" -- reconstructions from 1600 onward make it "plausible," but prior to 1600 there is less confidence in it; and there is even less confidence in the claim that the 1990s and 1998 in particular were the hottest years in the past 1000 years.

Try to find that lack of confidence in this Associated Press article published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Thursday, June 22, 2006 · Last updated 8:16 p.m. PT

Earth hottest it's been in 2,000 years


WASHINGTON -- The Earth is running a slight fever from greenhouse gases, after enjoying relatively stable temperatures for 2,000 years. The National Academy of Sciences, after reconstructing global average surface temperatures for the past two millennia, said Thursday the data are "additional supporting evidence ... that human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming."
Combining that information gave the panel "a high level of confidence that the last few decades of the 20th century were warmer than any comparable period in the last 400 years," the panel wrote. It said the "recent warmth is unprecedented for at least the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia," though it was relatively warm around the year 1000 followed by a "Little Ice Age" from about 1500 to 1850.

Their conclusions were meant to address, and they lent credibility to, a well-known graphic among climate researchers - a "hockey-stick" chart that climate scientists Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley and Malcolm Hughes created in the late 1990s to show the Northern Hemisphere was the warmest it has been in 2,000 years.

I don't believe the NAS press release and the AP story say the same thing.

I look forward to reading the entire NAS report, but I don't look forward to seeing it used by the global-warming propagandists.

Is the left actually looney?

Peggy Noonan's description of the Democratic Party's problem with its "base" makes for an interesting read:

Democratic leaders in Washington are in a worse position than Republican leaders in Washington. Neither likes their base, really, and both think they are smarter. But the Democrats think, deep down, that their base is barking mad. The Republicans don't. They just think their base is a bore.

Members of the left have clearly gone to the extremes of what could be called dogmatic, and in many cases seem to suffer from some sort of delusional disorder.

But, it's a human failing that isn't confined to the left. While the folks who imagined a threat from black helicopters in the night years ago have disappeared from the political landscape, there are still people on the right wing of the political spectrum who cannot be shaken from belief in their own dogma by mere facts.

It's just more noticeable on the left today, since the Democrats have people like Pelosi, Reid and Dean acting as their public spokesmen.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Gentrification in the Pacific Northwest

The Washington Post published an interesting article in today's online edition about the reverse of white flight in Portland and Seattle:

In Parts of Northwest, a Changing Face
Economics Drives White Gentrification in Core Black Neighborhoods of Seattle and Portland

By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 19, 2006; A03

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Already the whitest major city in America, Portland is rapidly becoming even whiter at its core.

"The heart of the black community is gone," said Charles Ford, 76, a black activist whose neighborhood in Portland has flipped in recent years from majority black to majority white. "There ain't no center anymore."

About 150 miles north in Seattle, the nation's second-whitest major city, the same process of downtown demographic bleaching is accelerating for the same reasons.

One might think that the integration of all Americans is better than the insular neighborhoods divided by race, but apparently it's not so obviously a good thing:

"I am concerned and I am frustrated because I don't know what the alternatives are," said Norman Rice, who in the 1990s was Seattle's first and only black mayor. "It clearly isn't racist; it's economics. The real question you have to ask yourself is: Is this good or bad?"

What are the alternatives? Well, how about assigning people to particular neighborhoods based on the color of their skin? We could call them "progressive ghettos" and claim that we merely seek to achieve diversity.

Or, maybe we could just be conservative about the whole matter and let free people move around freely.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Cynical politics as usual?

According to the Washington Post:

The House voted 256 to 153 yesterday to back President Bush's policies in Iraq after two days of passionate and partisan debate that saw Republicans try to recast an unpopular conflict as part of a broader war on terrorism and totalitarianism.

Forty-two Democrats bucked their leadership to join a virtually united Republican Party and to declare that the United States must complete "the mission to create a sovereign, free, secure and united Iraq" without setting "an arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment" of U.S. troops.

Three Republicans -- Reps. Ron Paul (Tex.), John J. Duncan Jr. (Tenn.) and Jim Leach (Iowa) -- joined 149 Democrats and one independent to oppose the resolution. Five others -- three Democrats and two Republicans -- voted "present" in protest.

Here in Washington, our representatives voted this way (or not at all):

Yes -- Doc Hastings (R), Rick Larsen(D), Cathy McMorris(R), Adam Smith(D);

No -- Brian Baird(D), Norman Dicks(D), Jay Inslee(D), Jim McDermott(D); and

Not voting -- David Reichert(R).

I'm puzzled by the Democrats' complaints to the effect that this is a cynical political ploy by the Republicans. When the Demwits raise Cain about the situation in Iraq, are they practicing something other than partisan politics? Besides, what is a legislature for, if not the taking of votes on matters of consequence?

The situation in Iraq is improving, but the Democrats apparently don't want to acknowledge this; nor do they want to hear the American people say, "well, thank goodness that worked out." They prefer hearing them say, "we shouldn't have been there in the first place: so what if things worked out?!"

The cynical political ploys are the actions and statements of the Democrats, as usual.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Ward Churchill may be on his way out

One more step has been taken toward the removal of the charlatan named Ward Churchill.

If the recommendation to dismiss him from the University of Colorado professorship which he has used to spread his lies is followed, Churchill can join Michael Bellesiles in well-deserved infamy.

As noted in the executive summary of the latest report, Churchill committed what might be called academic fraud to spread his lies about our nation's history:

The Standing Committee on Research Misconduct at the University of Colorado at Boulder has accepted the conclusions of the Investigative Committee that Professor Ward Churchill has committed serious, repeated, and deliberate research misconduct.

Strangely, the recommendation to fire this mountebank was not unanimous:

In deliberating about appropriate sanctions, SCRM was not unanimous in its recommendations, nor did it feel any obligation to reach a consensus. The SCRM’s rules do not require a consensus; moreover, since the committee’s role is to provide recommendations to the ultimate decision makers, we believe that representing the range of perspectives of the committee members will be most useful to those decision makers. With that in mind, six of the voting members of the committee recommended dismissal, two recommended suspension without pay for a five-year term, and one recommended suspension without pay for a two-year term. (Our recommendations were the result of a secret ballot. As with the Investigative Committee, we agreed among ourselves not to disclose to anyone our individual votes.)

What does it take to persuade all the people on such committees that a liar who portrays his lies as serious academic publications -- even when he is a leftist -- should be fired?

The damage such people can do is enormous when they use their positions as professors to disseminate lies. Churchill, for example, has been instrumental in the leftists' effort to fool people into believing that the Indians of North America were victims of genocide carried out by colonists from Europe and their descendants with what amounted to biological warfare. Many people on the left now believe the lie and use it as one basis for denigrating the greatest nation on earth.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Stock Market Plunge?

When is a decline of less than one-half a percent a worrisome change in the Dow Jones Industrial Average for the day?

When it's an election year -- and the Associated Press wants to persuade voters that things are going to hell in a hand basket:

Dow Falls to Worst Close Since March

Jun 6, 5:51 PM (ET)

NEW YORK (AP) - Stocks dropped for the second straight session Tuesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average falling to its worst close since March 9. Global markets also sold off as inflation fears worsened.

The Dow lost more than 110 points in midday trading before narrowing its loss later in the session. The index dropped nearly 200 points Monday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke spooked Wall Street by saying that the central bank will remain vigilant in fighting inflation.
The Dow fell 46.58, or 0.42 percent, to 11,002.14. The index tumbled 199.15 points, or 1.77 percent, during Monday's session.

Broader stock indicators were also lower. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 1.44, or 0.11 percent, to 1,263.85, and the Nasdaq composite fell 6.84, or 0.32 percent, to 2,162.78.

The (usually unreliable) Kitsap Sun showed its partisan stripes by posting the AP article online as an update with this headline and summary on its home page:

Stock Prices Drop Sharply for 2nd Day
10:35 a.m., Tue., June 6, 2006
Stocks fell sharply for the second straight session Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial average losing more than 100 points and falling below 11,000 for the first time since March. Global markets followed U.S. investors' lead in abandoning stocks as inflation fears worsened.

When a Demwit is hoping for bad economic news, little things like the actual number of points lost or the actual average as of the close of trading are unimportant. It's more sensational to say that the DJIA lost "more than a 100 points" and fell "below 11,000" -- so the editors of the (usually unreliable) Kitsap Sun did.

While most rational folks would consider a one-day decline of 0.42 percent a small drop, and wouldn't be shocked at a two-day decline of 2.19 percent, the editors of the (usually unreliable) Kitsap Sun spiced up their report by writing, "Stocks fell sharply for the second straight session...."

Yeah, it's an election year, all right. It's more important for the editors of the (usually unreliable) Kitsap Sun to try to influence public opinion by misleading their readers than it is to inform them with actual news reporting.

Friday, June 02, 2006

"Norm, say it isn't so," he cried

That credit to his party, Jacob Metcalf, finally noticed the unfortunate timing of donations from International Speedway Corporation folks to Congressman Norm Dicks.